My daughter hates Meat Is Murder, the final track on The Smiths‘ LP of the same name. The grinding slaughterhouse machines battling for ear space with distressed cows has her shouting, “TURN IT OFF!!” every time it comes on. As all good dads should do, I sometimes turn it up twice as loud and make her listen all the way to the end, which she perhaps understandably hates me for.
The Smiths – Meat is Murder
It’s the statement that Morrissey is perhaps most well-known for, and such was his influence at the time, Meat Is Murder turned many teenagers vegetarian. It’s a brilliant track, based around Johnny Marr’s cycling Wythenshawe waltz-time riff and fleshed out (pardon the pun) on record by some understated sparkling piano work from The Smiths’ musical alchemist.
“That was a riff I’d been playing around with for a few days before,” recalls Marr. “Really nasty, in open D. I didn’t know the lyrics but I knew the song was gonna be called ‘Meat Is Murder’ so it just all came together in the take.”
It certainly came together. Meat Is Murder favours mood over melody, and Morrissey’s lines, rhythmic, rhyming and alliterative – ‘The meat in your mouth as you savour the flavour of murder‘ pull no punches.
The song was a staple of The Smiths’ live set for the next year or so, usually performed atop a tape of the abbatoir noises that so horrify my daughter. You’ll find a good version of it, recorded live by the BBC in Oxford on the b-side of the That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore 12″.
When the band played Irvine on their September ’85 tour of Scottish backwaters, Morrissey introduced it thus;
“Just remember one thing, dear friends. Next time you bite into that big, fat sausage…..YOU’RE EATING SOMEBODY’S MOTHER!!“
The Smiths – Meat Is Murder (Irvine, 22.9.85)
I never went to this show, a fact that will haunt me until the day I die. Idiot that I was.
Playing it at the Victoria Hall in Hanley a few months earlier in March, a fan threw a string of sausages onto the stage just as the song began, smacking Morrissey on the mouth.
“They hurled it so accurately that I actually bit into it in the action of singing the word ‘murder'”
Known for walking off stage at the slightest thing these days, I’m not so sure the old grump would be quite as frivolous about such an act nowadays:
This was inscribed on the run-out groove of The Smiths’ Sheila Take A Bow single. But you knew that already.